It was a long time coming, but the Phillies announced on Thursday that they will be retiring Dick Allen’s number. Allen will be the first Phillie not enshrined in the Hall of Fame to have his number retired, but he might not be the only Cooperstown snub to bear that distinction for long.
Allen will be considered for enshrinement this winter by the Golden Era committee, a 16-person group that is responsible for re-evaluating the Hall of Fame cases for players who were active between 1950-1969.
In his 15-year career, Allen was a .292/.378/.534 hitter with an overall OPS+ of 156. He ranks 17th all-time among third basemen in bWAR at 58.8.* Allen was elected to seven All-Star games, won the Rookie of the Year award in 1964, and the American League MVP in 1972 as a member of the White Sox. In that MVP season, he led the AL in homers, RBI, walks, and slugging while leading all of the majors in on-base percentage, OPS, and OPS+.
*Baseball Reference lists Allen as a third baseman on their Hall of Fame leaderboard though he played more games at first base.
That Allen wasn’t inducted into Cooperstown his first time around (or that he isn’t more widely known by baseball fans), had more to do with his mistreatment and the hostility he faced rather than his talent.
As a minor leaguer, Allen was thrown into a hostile environment without any preparation. From his SABR bio:
In 1963 the Phillies’ Triple-A farm club relocated from Buffalo to Little Rock, Arkansas. Without telling anyone, the Phillies decided to integrate the team...
For Allen, who grew up in racially tolerant Wampum, Little Rock was a startling experience. As the first black to play there, he experienced racial segregation and pressure on a daily basis. “I didn’t know anything about the racial issue in Arkansas, and didn’t really care. Maybe if the Phillies had called me in, man to man, like the Dodgers had done with Jackie Robinson, at least I would have been prepared. Instead, I was on my own.”
The Phillies continued to antagonize Allen once he reached the big leagues. The transgressions ranged from insisting on calling him Richie instead of Dick to having racist remarks thrown at him by teammate Frank Thomas.
Fans may have turned against Allen after he punched Thomas in the jaw, but 56 years later, Allen will finally be honored in the way he’s always deserved.
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